And here, a fish that can’t be alive,
in the dirty martini stream that doesn’t exist.
Yet it does,
curling at the humeris and ulna
of Mississippi and Southern Aves.
in Southeast Washington—city of elbows.
Legless swimmer, let me imagine,
you fell from storm clouds hissing in sky,
traveled from parking lot via rain sewer
in paper cup or Guinness can barge,
not fifteen downhill blocks from St. E’s
where Pound sang his cantos to sleep
under Chinooks from Bolling Air Force Base,
and gray destroyers in the Navy Yard,
and deeper still, a geology layered
by hands skilled in the art of corruption
so that dinosaur gravel from 60 million years ago
beds with alluvial clay from an era of live birth.
This rarest of rocky marriages,
the only one that produces magnolia bogs.
No wonder its popularity among middle schoolers
like my mother in the Fifties, preparing to be greasers,
or to protest police activity in the Mekong delta,
but on another corner of her bitter witness
the pursuit of any meaning is what matters,
and a hot herring sandwich at Auntie Lucy’s.
Even today, as four deer gossip in the fens,
two beautiful brown boys climb the bank,
a little hip showing above their damp denim
as if they’d just been for a swim.
All the Latest Talk in Paradise
She Sits with Me on the Bus Every Day
Our dads drop us, we wait together. Then we sit on the bus.
We talk sometimes. We talk all the time. There are terrific silences.
Next year she is going to college. I am going back to high school.
And the year after that. And the next.
The bus isn’t crowded. There are other places to sit.
Barbara always takes the window, and I always take the seat beside her.
At my school, the boys’ school, I get off, and the bus goes
to the girls’ school a few miles away.
I’ve never been to it. Don’t know where it is. But I like not knowing.
I like looking in every direction and wondering where she could be.
My friend Larry Poodle gets out of jail
so we throw a “Poodle Broke out of Jail Party.”
Just another party at the dump—our duplex--
joined by the tank of oil that warms us in January.
A few kegs and blenders, and late into the evening
bodies fall asleep against anything that doesn’t move.
Too shy to look at anyone, I hardly speak.
Someone’s hand is grasping my foot the way twins are born.
All the nightmares lay beside all the dreams.
Larry shuffles from ash tray to ash tray, emptying smaller ones
into larger ones. He has a thing about fire. It’s a new thing.
He never empties an ash tray directly into the trash can.
He is otherwise very smooth, with chuckling eyes,
and known for having the best Quaaludes in Tidewater.
About life, Larry and I have nothing to say.
It’s the quiet hour that makes me so anxious.
The Rainbow Pig
I once ate copper salt bleeding through jasper,
now my eyes are green.
I chewed cyanide into dust and spit,
so blue, so blue, my teeth.
My belly turned yellow to be the sun
shining on its own shadow.
In the heat and crickets of August I was so hungry
for autumn I gorged on maple leaves.
My coat turned orange, my points ochre, my mane
like a kissable lip, so red, so red.
I am the rainbow pig.
While others snort and root and grunt, I am silent
until the day star burns off the whiskey rain.
Find me, find me at the end of the iris,
I’m dreaming, dreaming of you.
Staring at the motion detector
I try not to blink.
We play this game twenty times
a night, two bucks a match.
The motion detector is rich.
It has never lost, and winning,
throws a harsh light that blinds my skull.
The upside of so much failure:
I can stare a long time without thinking,
or making plans, or remembering.
But I wish we played for love,
or that losing would be winning,
and my fear of touching you
dissolved when I closed my eyes.
Luck has a way of drooling
like water from stone.
One night I bet a whole fifty,
like plugging another amp into me.
Of course, I blinked. Goodnight my love,
I said, into the white blinding star.